Campaign of the Month: August 2018

The Praise of Old Men

Chapter One: The Spice Merchants Of Sel-kai: Part Eleven

Orgillion Manor – Second Floor

After a surprisingly quiet evening, the party resume their exploration of the Orgillion Manor and led by Cherry, they carefully make their way upstairs from the imposing ground floor entrance hall. At the top of the wide sweeping marble staircase, they find a large circular library and study. A small iron spiral staircase leads up to the top floor but the party decide to clear the second floor first; there is a faint smell of sulfur from the top of the stairs.

There are numerous books and diaries that detail the running of the manor and its estate. There is also a small but priceless collection of old heavy arcane tomes and Sylke takes two that catch her eye: "The Shards of Klarkash-Ton" and "De Vermis Mysteris". There is also a notebook that belonged to Tobias Orgillion, the last of the family. Clearly interested in his ancestors and their history, Tobias had begun to assemble a family tree and his scribbled notebook contains anecdotes, dull records of marriages and deaths and the following interesting note: "scandalous marriage of Leopold and Desidara Damssen – came to live at manor with her insane siblings, "Larkrise" and "Sunset" – both later placed in asylum". You assume that the asylum mentioned was the Hadeshill and given the date … this is just a few years before the fire and the closing of the place. Relevant?

The room adjacent to the library is a long hall with numerous display cabinets and tables, the majority smashed. There is more evidence of the fight that took place between the manor's human occupants and the ghouls encountered. The noise of splintering wood draws the companions to a music room to the west and a short fight with four ghouls. Sharna covers the party and defeats two of the ghouls when Cran is concussed but wisely steps back to allow the murderous warrior room to swing his terrible axe; the two remaining creatures are cleaved from shoulder to hip in seconds. Ugnan swiftly deals with the wounds that Cran took and the party continue to explore the west wing of the second floor.

This part of the house seems deserted but more evidence reveals the fate of the slavers who took over the house and in one of the rooms, one of the slaves who managed to flee at one point. In one of the master bedrooms, the party discover the remains of a child who had bled to death after taking a vicious slash to the neck. Bearing tell-tale manacle marks around the wrist and ankles, it is obvious that the slave tried to hid in the bedroom having locked the door but then bleed to death; the bed that he had climbed onto is deeply stained. In the last small bedroom in the western wing, the group find a small artist's cubby which has a collection of dried inks, expensive pens and charcoals. The person who used the room was probably female judging by the empty perfume bottles on a dresser and a talented artist. There are sketches of horses, local flora, local scenes (coast, moor and fen) and a single study of two people, twins it appears and the phrase "L and S" recorded underneath the sketch.

With little more to discover, the group head into the eastern wing. They find a small study that reeks of sulfur and a collection of bones dating back years. The bones have been neatly sorted and stacked in groups with three comfortable arm chairs arranged to "view" this macabre display. Oddly, there are no skulls present. Leaving this room, they enter a long hallway a ghostly spirit coalesces from the shards of glass scattered over the floor and rushes towards them, taloned hands outstretched ….




Situation Report Eleven
The Chronicles of Cran Crannock

Upstairs in the Manor

During the night in The Manor we hear the occasional bangs and crashes from our floor and upstairs, but fortunately nothing disturbs our sleep and we enjoy a surprisingly restful night. The morning is misty as we break our fast and sneak back into the body of the mansion again. Cherry sneaks across the main hallway to the wide staircase on the right.

As she emerges onto a landing she sees a spiral staircase leading up to the top floor of the tower and she gets a deep sense of unease as she approaches. Perhaps it would be best to avoid going upstairs for now… A small table sits near one of the windows and red drapes, recently fitted, conceal doors on the southern wall. The floor is scored and scratched with clear evidence of a struggle quite recently. Blood stains can be seen in the centre of the room and bloody footsteps lead to the south-western set of drapes.

Cherry motions to us all to ascend the stairs and we cluster around her as she investigates the South Eastern set of curtains – dropping to her belly, she peers under the drapes. She sees nothing and motions for me to enter. And pulling the drapes aside I step through, closely followed by Sharna into another damned library!

After a cursory search we head back out to the balcony and I think I hear a quiet rustling coming from the spiral stairs that caused Cherry unease. "Get away from the stairs", I whisper urgently as I creep towards their foot. As I strain to hear more I catch a distinct whiff of sulphur and grimace. "Lets's head to the other curtain".

Beyond the south western drapes there are small galleries that have been partly lined with bookshelves. These clearly once held valuable books; slender but strong looking chains drape the shelves, many have been broken it seems. However, the books they once held have been scorched and almost totally destroyed by fire. The bloodstained footprints end near a large dark stain by a set of double doors to the south.

More Bloody Books

Worried about whatever is upstairs, I urge everyone to keep moving "Ugnan, Sylke, get through the curtain. I'm right behind you." The library beyond contains another mangled and somewhat fresh corpse. While searching, Ugnan discovers a notebook by a Tobias Orgillion, which contains an Orgillion family tree, and some old arcane books. Tobias' notebook also has some intriguing descriptions: "scandalous marriage of Leopold and Desidara Damssen – came to live at manor with her insane siblings, "Larkrise" and "Sunset" – both later placed in asylum". The marriage was in 5730; Leopold and Desidara were both 17.

Sylke discovers some fascinating  valuable copperplate script texts during her search: 'De Vermis Mysteris'; and 'The Shards Of Klarkash-Ton'. Sylke believes that Klarkash-Ton is a place. Sylke also believes that both tomes contain some spells. I sometimes think I'd like to be able to cast spells, but then I heft my axe and rapidly lose interest. No substitute for some heavy, sharp steel in your hand.

Through the door to the south we enter a long trophy room. Paintings of members of the Orgillion family and sundry trophies line the walls. Display cabinets are still intact and house all manner of odd looking objects. There are strange bronze tubes with colored glass fittings. Small clay pots that look to be hundreds of years old. Collections of minerals – molybdenite, quarts and deep blue henmilite among them. You can hear the sound of wood snapping from the western end of the gallery and there is sudden crash as something heavy collapses to the floor. At the western end of the room Sharna hears some banging and crashing of furniture.

We open the door to the west and spot four ghouls. Chairs and old instruments are stored here. Two ghouls seem oddly trapped against the northern wall; they walk repeatedly into the wall and strike futilely against it as if trying to force their way through. As you enter, they slowly, very slowly turn and stare at you … before stumbling toward you, mouths open. Quickly, Sharna pulls the door closed and Cherry locks it under immense pressure. Unfortunately it doesn't last long under the sickening barrage from the other side.

The ghouls are on us! Sharna reacts first with a couple of sweeping attacks, although barely breaks through the first creature's defences. My axe thuds in behind Sharna and strikes it's chest, knocking it back a bit and causing it to flail around with it's claws. Unfortunately, it's pushed into our room by the weight of the ghouls behind it, but Sharna lays it out with a well-placed elbow strike.

The ghoul through the door stuns me with a cruel knee in my lower back that leaves me reeling, and I feel my vision closing down. I manage to consume a dose of Vinuk from my pouch, which clears my head, but leaves me scrabbling on the defensive while my vision clears.

Sharna puts in some good work with her feet and fists and the second collapses, twitching. I get swatted by the one facing me, but he doesn't get through my defences. Cherry looses an amazing arrow through the melee and skewers one through a major artery in his upper arm. He backs off clutching the mortal wound and collapses on the floor – he won't trouble us again.

Sharna steps into the breach and artfully fends off an ineffective blow from a ghoul before unleashing a follow up strike which is also parried.

Bloody Murder

Since coming to Sel-kai I have been able to keep the black-out rages at bay. But in this doorway, with a thumping pain in my lower back, my vision clearing and the taste of blood in my mouth I lose control of my horses.

I enter a frenzy of rage, barrel past Sharna and swing my axe with a relentless overhand blow. The blow flings the ghoul back from me into the room, his chest completely caved in. The final ghoul comes at me, but gets knocked back in the same fashion. I scan the room for more threats and fortunately my colleagues are behind me out of sight. "Who else wants to challenge me then? Eh? Who else?" As the last foe flops to a standstill, I breathe a sigh of relief and manage to calm myself.

As I turn back to my colleagues, once again the pain from my injury hits me and I stagger. The pain of my wound is nothing, though, compared with the pain I feel when I see the horror etched across everyone's faces. I drop my eyes in shame. Ugnan relieves my pulsating back and rib pain, leaving me feeling remarkably whole again. "Ugnan." I nod as I grasp his forearm in thanks and exchange a grateful look.

The West Wing

Cherry shakes herself and moves further west in her exploration – more signs of slaughter are evident. A corridor to the north leads to a games room.

The faded and slightly grey plaster does not hide the once elegant nature of this retiring room. A former games room, it still contains all manner of once popular parlour games. However, many of the tables have been badly damaged and smashed. A large axe still sits embedded in a large card table. Cherry finds a severed hand and winkles a silver ring off a finger, pocketing it for later. Finding nothing else of value we go back to the corridor and head south.

The next door leads to a large linen store-room. The southern door in this room simply leads to some more linen baskets, labeled 1, 2, 3, 5 with chalk.

Sharna continues down the corridor where she discovers the half-eaten remains of a human with a hatchet in his head. Back up the corridor Cherry peeks through a keyhole and sees a bedchamber. The door is locked, but Cherry pulls off a master-stroke: She slides a piece of paper under the door and gently pushes the key out into the room. It lands on the paper and Cherry gingerly pulls it back under the door – with a flourish, she turns the key in the lock and pushes the door open with a smile. What a girl! The bedroom beyond contains a four-poster bed with drapes drawn. Pulling them back uncovers the desiccated corpse of a small child – marks of manacles having left deep gouges in wrists and ankles. As Sylke retrieves some weird creams and oils from a dressing table, I gently clean the poor kid as best I can and cover the corpse with a sheet. The bastards will pay for this – and the parallels with the Sanitarium in Sel-kai are now getting too close for coincidence.

The final bedroom in the west wing contains some sketches, including one of a couple in their 30s/40s with an 'S and 'L' written on them. Sylke pockets it and some other sketches.

The East Wing

We walk back through the long trophy room, ready to investigate the east wing. A door in the northern wall smells faintly of sulphur again. Heaps of bones have been piled into the north-eastern corner but there is surprisingly little blood here. Most disturbingly, the skulls that should be attached to the skeletal remains are all missing. The dust in the room has been disturbed, and Sylke has a hunch some demonic summoning has happened here. The bones are stacked like-with-like and the most recent barely days old – well spotted Cherry. Thinking about the old bones we found in the asylum, my concussed-eyes can't make out any writing, but Cherry confirms that the marks aren't writing, but probably just knife marks.

To the final door in the east end of the trophy room. Little remains intact in this room, once magnificent display cases have been smashed and glass litters the floor. As we enter we feel an eerie sense of being watched and at the far end of the room the glass begins to move slowly on the floor. The glass abruptly stops moving but a misty figure hurtles across the hall at us!

Situation Report Ten (Supplement - An Evening by the Fire)
Chronicles of Cran Crannock

The fire spits sparks as Cran throws a couple more smashed table legs into the fireplace in the Orgillion Master Bedroom and looks over to his colleagues with a frown on his dirt-streaked face. "By Kuor's grey whiskers I'm getting mightily confused with all this guff about The Spicer's Guild, dozens of bloody shady families and some place called Azydaer. Once we've discovered what's going on here, Ugnan needs to do some research in some Charôn-damned library back in Sel-kai." [see 'Loose Ends']

Sharna. "That he does – I had no idea something could be that old or confusing. It would be nice if the bad guys wore a uniform to make it easy for us. At least there's no confusion with ghouls!"

Cheryl pipes up in a rush. “I don’t think it’s that confusing, let’s draw the lines of straight up connections with what we have. Spice guild is connected to this place and the asylum which is connected to the weapons cache and these ghouls and our old contract giver at house B, who, by the way, is on the hunt for us because we were not smart about tidying up the guards who spotted us at the asylum, which I think was a mistake, while I’m not keen to go spree killing people or torturer mode in anyway, we left an obvious trail which is bad. A house will have no such misgivings about wiping us from its ledgers for us finding its secrets. And don’t think the house we are working for will care or help unless we have something they need,”

“It’s also connected to the drugs caches, which the houses are both interested in, (could this be connected to ghouls and where they come from or another plan?)"

Sharna replies without emotion, "We will have to make our selves indispensable to the current house in that case. Could the guards recognise us – I thought we wondered around invisibly for the whole time?"

Cheryl muses, "Or we use some of our new found wealth to build a better collective buffer on the street with the gangs? We left the guards alive, they just had to describe Cran, Ugnan and yourself Sharna and our old employer and they knew. Word is already on the street we’re to be looked for. I bought us some time on the docks before we left.”

Cran takes a swig from his battered hip flask and offers it around. "Yeah, Cherry, I agree, that recent history is fairly straightforward. But how are the Azydaer, Fey, Cruciform Murders, the Cloots and the Damssen family linked? Some of those have roots stretching back thousands of years; they probably have tendrils everywhere. And what was the real purpose of The Spicer's Guild?"

Cheryl looks over with a frown on her face. "I think some of it easier than others, we’ve proof of fey involved in the asylum, maybe source of ghoul creation? Queen Mab owning bones, that sort of thing. Guilds likely want to take power from houses?"

Cran shifts his bulk from the edge of the bed and walks over to crouch by the fire. "I'm going to leave the book-lovers in one of the Sel-kai libraries for a couple of days and see what they come up with."

Cheryl stares into the flames as she continues her train of thought, before grinning at her pun. "I think The Spicers Guild itself was originally shut down because of this interaction with fey/ghouls. House B is connected as secret backers for the experiments. Maybe the house has necromancy in the skeleton closet?"

Sylke pulls out of her pre-assigned time for her meditative reverie (the Elven need for merely 2-hours of uninterrupted rest per day) and hears the past minutes of conversation. “No time like the present to do some research!” she muses as she pulls out the many reams of paper logs and journals from the Asylum that she painstakingly collected, admittedly more for the worth of its blank pages rather than the text on the reverse.

Plopping down a stack next to Ugnan that swirls detritus and dust briefly about, she continues, ”I haven’t been able to pore through these, besides the cursory glances here and there. Perhaps they’ll have info on these experiments, both necromantic and surgical found there, as well as here like your Water Elemental Sprite friend mentioned, Cherry!” 

The Elven maid silently draws up her legs into an even more uncomfortable position akin to one of Sharna’s stances and begins to devour the written words on the pale, haphazardly bundled pages.

Cran arranges a couple of plump pillows on the floor, stretches his back muscles before lying down in front of the fire, boots raised towards the blaze, resting on a fire-iron and gently steaming. He takes another sip from his flask. "Don't throw those pages away or get them damp, Sylke. They look a handy alternative to kindling."

Having dozed off almost immediately, Ugnan farts loudly in his sleep, waking himself. Sitting up with a groan, he wrinkles his nose at the newly arrived stench, shoots an accusatory glare at Cran then seems to recall where he is and says in a tired croaky voice, "I think I can still smell those rancid creatures." Easing himself down again, he is snoring mere seconds later.

The slight Mage distractedly wrinkles her delicate Erlini nose at the annoyance but only looks up as Ugnan eyeballs Cran. Likewise, snuffling disgustedly at the shaggy giant of a man and his closed-shared-quarters-mixed-sexes etiquette, she shakes her head and moves away from the fire. This especially when Cran mentions firing the notes! She harrumphs down loudly, flicks her wrist, and engages the bright torch magic she uses to help navigate dark places…the bright light bouncing off the pages to weirdly distort her features into an angry, seemingly Demonic mask. That or she is just that mad at Cran for the Ghast-ly disturbance?!

Chapter One: The Spice Merchants Of Sel-kai: Part Ten

Orgillion Manor – Ground Floor

Sharna nimbly climbs the crumbling northern face of the rocky hill that the manor house broods on and within minutes she is followed by Cran and the rest of the party. The estate seems deserted but in the late morning mist and fog though the view from the hill of the surrounding moor and fen is commanding, details are difficult to make out. Approaching the rear of the building stealthily, Cherry unlocks a door that leads into what was at one time a rather well stocked conservatory. Neglected for years, the plants have all withered and died. 

Four ravenously hungry ghouls have taken up residence inside, splintered bones and spatters of dried blood are clearly obvious on the floor and as soon as Cran leads his companions inside, the pestilent creatures swarm the party. They are no match for the companions however; Sharna's speed and skill quickly incapacitate a couple and Cran's terrifying strength is soon apparent as his enormous axe decapitates two of the creatures. Ugnan's clever use of spells takes care of a third and within mere heartbeats, the conservatory is quiet again.

The party clear the eastern wing of two more creatures and find plenty of evidence that slaves and slavers have taken up residence but there are no signs of recent occupation. Blood smears, gobbets of flesh and shattered bones indicate where more ghouls have made unpleasant lairs. Discarded swords and ripped clothing are a testament to a vicious fight – perhaps all the slavers were killed?

An extensive ground floor library turns out to be a treasure trove both in terms of a small coffer containing a sizable amount of gold but also books describing the detailed accounts and activities of the Honourable Guild Of Spice Merchants. Ugnan eagerly leafs through these and quickly deduces that there is more to this Guild than at first appears and again he notes the odd link between this group of "merchants" and the old asylum. Three familiar family names also reappear: the Cloots, Damssens and Orgillions. A tattered shipping and cargo ledger has been left behind on the floor and this confirms the presence of a group of slave traders who had been snatching Sel-kai citizens.

Moving to the western wing, the party find a large banqueting chamber that had been set for a large event that clearly never took place. The exquisite Orgillion porcelain service that has been laid out is priceless but far too bulky and fragile to simply be piled into sacks; packing straw, crates and Spotted Jim will be required. Rather sad and lonely, the once lively center of the manor leads on to the kitchens and the servant's wing. There is more evidence that the Orgillion home has been used as a base to hold slaves before their transport to other parts of Emer but fortunately no more of the horrible ghouls are encountered.

With evening now deepening, the party retire to the master bedroom to wait until morning ….

Situation Report Ten
The Chronicles of Cran Crannock

Investigating the Orgillion Estate


A stony rise forms the foundation of Orgillion Manor. The northern slope of the mound descends gradually to the moor, allowing access via the path. The other three sides fall away rather sharply and consist of loose, crumbling cobbles. We punted the skiff to the North side of the estate, attempting to keep out of sight from possible guards monitoring the main path to the Manor.

After a couple of attempts, Sharna uses my grappling hook and rope to climb the cliff face. I manage to scrabble up after her, closely followed by Ugnan, Cherry and Sylke. We're up! "Nicely done", I whisper as I roll up and stow the rope.

Cherry peers through a partially obscured window. The conservatory is linked to the Great Hall and the outside by twin glass and wrought iron doors, blighted and dying plants litter the floor. Cherry creeps silently up to check out the door, oils the rusty old lock and picks it with some ease. Shes' getting really good at this.

Grey GhoulWe ready ourselves, as Sharna and I spot two grey-skinned humanoids, one gnawing a shattered bone. The things are strangely transformed Ghouls [art credit], putrescent corpses with teeth lengthened into fangs and nails strengthened into claws.

I charge in to meet them, but Sylke and Sharna react first. Sylke strikes one with a Light Bolt, and Sharna follows up with blinding speed, a flurry of elbows and feet causing the closest creature to reel around in shock. I strike out with a backhand swing with the axe and the spike embeds itself reassuringly in the second ghoul's skull. It drops and I rip the axe free, but two more emerge from behind bushes to engage. Ugnan successfully calms a third creature that appears and Cherry skewers one in its side with a well-placed arrow. Sharna and I move to protect Sylke.

Sharna pummels another Ghoul and I connect with one of the stunned Ghouls with a savage thud into it's lower back. It drops in a spray of brackish spinal fluid as I move on to tackle the calmed Ghoul. Cherry's arrow misses one of the two remaining, but Sharna strikes it with a spin-kick and bludgeons it to the floor. I finish off the final Ghoul, who was completely focused on a flower next to him. I wipe the rancid ichor from my axe on the tattered rags of one of the ghouls.

A wolfish grin splits my face, "that's the way we like fights to go". Sharna nods once to me as I move up to the door and listen. "Say one thing about Cran Crannock, say he has a way with the women", I mutter beneath my breath as I take my place again at the head of the line. Nothing but the faint sound of air rustling a pennant in the area beyond.

This spacious hall, once elegantly furnished, is now in a state of decay. A ragged banner hangs from the rafters, occasionally stirring fitfully. Doors to the north stand ajar and the glass that once filled the frames have been smashed. A number of short-swords and an axe lie discarded on a blood splattered floor. The weaponry is stained and chipped but fairly new and well made.

Bloody Books

Books everywhere.Further investigation leads to a library. Richly furnished, this room houses ranks of book cases but the books they hold are rather dull and non of any particular value. Silver candlesticks on the large table indicate that this room has been used recently. A torn ledger lies on the floor. A small coffer also rests on the table.  The library is extremely well stocked with numerous historical and geographical books and manuscripts. Sadly these are somewhat "eclectically" filed, making it hard to find specific texts. However, fully one whole shelf is devoted to large books that are labeled on the spines as being "Records and Accords Of The Honourable Guild Of Spice Merchants". [Details of our search are recorded with the Guild description].

The ledger lists what looks like slaves who have been purchased. We stow the two silver candlesticks in a pack and Cherry investigates the elaborately carved box and discovers a pair of needle traps. She triggers the trap and successfully picks the lock, revealing a horde of gold and silver and three uncut rubies! By Cas this investigative work is much more lucrative than the mercenary game.

Bedrooms Converted to Cells

Moving on, we find a master bedroom, smelling faintly of tobacco. A canopy bed with shredded hangings occupies one corner of the room. An empty chest lies at the foot of the bed, broken open. A private bath adjoins the Master bedroom. Ugnan discovers some very fine clothes and a well-balanced Long Kynack hidden under a rug. I've heard of the Kynack - interesting looking weapon - I must give it a test later. We believe that the lack of clothes indicate that the resident is not permanent.

Opposite the master bedroom we encounter a long abandoned bedroom. The furniture is intact but the soft furnishings are spotted with mold and are falling to pieces. There is a faint "coppery" smell to these rooms and there are disturbing gashes and deep scratches on the open doors.

I hear a couple of the Ghouls coming up a corridor from the South and surprise one with an axe swing that removes its leg in a spray of dark ooze, causing it to crash to the floor, twitching and pumping out gloopy fluids. The f***er behind it lashes out at me however before I can ready my axe and gashes my forearm. Thankfully, Sharna springs off the walls to attack, before I complete some good work with Tarnak's axe. They're both dead.

Blood patters down my arm wound as Ugnan drags me back to the library and heals me. My word I never knew the true value of a healer. He's a bloody miracle.

We find another small bedroom, this one with a crapper in it. Why is it that whenever I see a toilet I need a piss? Anyway, I felt much better after that.

We open more doors to small bedrooms, before opening a door to a storage room with a grim scene behind it. Blood has been splashed liberally across the broken furniture, trunks and miscellaneous bric-a-brac that litter and fill the room. Shackles have been fixed to the walls and are both out of place and very new. We can see what looks like a number of bones, perhaps rib, thigh and leg in the room. I move in to search but we find nothing more.

Another guest bedroom yields a pen. Ugnan seems excited by it. Made of silver apparently, and engraved with an Eagle Head. Writing's pointless. Why can't people just talk to each other?

Cherry discovers an trapped ceiling and a locked door. The door leads to another toilet. Why would someone trap a crapper I think as I plunge my hand ito the cold clear water. Nothing. Ugnan isn't as convinced of the trap at all – bloody trap my arse.

Dining Hall and More Cells

Having searched the East Wing, we return to the main entry hall and begin exploring the West Wing. Sharna and I note a cool breeze coming from upstairs. A broken window perhaps?

We open a door into a dining room. As if set for an uneaten meal, the long wooden table holds crockery, dishes, wilted flowers and unlit candles. An occasional mouse scampers across the tiled floor in search of mildewed crumbs. The dining set looks like it could be worth an absolute fortune – we need to pack it carefully and bring Spotted Jim back to collect it!

Weird. I sense a strong smell of suckling pig and, as the others come in, they detect faint sounds of a meal being taken. "Keep your wits about you", I command as we move to the doors out of the dining room.

The first door we open leads to a store room. Vermin of various sorts flee to the four corners of the room as we enter. Casks and barrels of moldering grain, flour and dried vegetables line the room.

Beyond the dining room we come upon a kitchen. A large stone fireplace for cooking holds a spit and has several niches for baking bread. The room is dirty, stained with grease and accompanied by a rancid odor. Only a few battered utensils remain hanging from nails along the mantle.

We creep along a passageway with lots of doors opening to left and right. Out of the corner of my eye I spot moving shadows, although Sharna shakes her head when I raise a questioning eyebrow. 

We investigate the rest of the rooms and turn up what seem to be more bedrooms converted to make-shift cells.

Barricading the Master Bedroom

As it's getting dark outside, we opt to return to the large master bedroom we discovered, drag a couple of beds in to use as barricades, and some mattresses and blankets for warmth. I hum an old mercenary song as I smash up some furniture for the fireplace.

I'm liking this crew. They're pretty damned effective out of the city and this place reminds me of many nights hunkered down on campaign. Sharna has some interesting ideas about close-quarters combat tactics that seem well-worth pursuing. Ugnan's got some stones on him – he's tougher than he looks and brave as they come – anyone who takes pain on willingly to help an ally is invaluable. Cherry seems highly skilled and Sylke didn't complain about the Manor. We did some good work today.

Chapter One: The Spice Merchants Of Sel-kai: Part Nine


The journey to the island is uneventful and The Brine drops anchor a quarter mile off the southern coast barely 24 hours after departing from Sel-kai. The party are rowed ashore and having decided to adopt the guise of wine merchants, they head towards the lonely village of Speyer accompanied by their placid beast-of-burden, " Spotted Jim". The route to the village leads across bleak moorland and a steady climb up the low hills that rise up from the shingle beach they were deposited on; Captain Elayne has agreed to wait offshore for one week, she will then return to Sel-kai.

After an hour or so, the companions come across a local "fertility rite" of sorts being carried out by half a dozen white robed men and women. Two wicker effigies are being burned though the dampness makes lighting the structures awkward. Much to  the relief of all in the party, the ceremony is totally benign and the "druids" are nothing more than costumed villagers led by the owner of Speyer's only inn, "The Lonely Shepherd". "Theodosus" and his barman, "Faelin" are pleased to purchase firkins of strong earthy red wine from Ugnan and happily re-direct the party to the village.

Speyer is a homely and quite welcoming village and after agreeing to pay an appropriate import "tax" directly to the island's appointed "sheriff", the party begin to gather information as best they can about the island and the Orgillion Estate. The sheriff, "Dirn" also sells the party a license to set up a stall in the market and attempt to sell more of the firkins that Spotted Jim has faithfully carried. Rumours of all sorts abound in the village and the party have little difficulty in gathering together all manner of tales (tall and short). The forbidding presence of the local priest, "Father Demosthenes",  casts something of a shadow over the happy settlement. Brother to "Dirn", the father is well known for his sharp tongue, temper and forthright views. It is whispered that his wife was murdered after her affair with a local woodcutter was discovered, but that was many years ago.

A few miles further east is the smaller and far less friendly hamlet of Bajorkham. Standing as it does on the edge of the marsh and open moor it is closer to the old estate and has been much more affected by the declining Orgillion fortunes than Speyer. Within minutes of arriving, the party are told in no uncertain terms to "go away" by a number of sullen residents. Though boasting two taverns, "The Red Dog" and "The Blooded Vine", there is at first very little interest in the brandy and wine that the party carry. The itinerant peddler, "Gosern" finally agrees to trade a powerfully built longbow for the brandy but as he points out, the locals are more interested in alcohol content than taste. The local tipple of choice seems to be a crude potato alcohol that is named "Skag". Visiting both taverns, the party variously discover little more about the estate to the east. The marshes are greatly feared and the last of the Orgillions, Tobias, went missing presumably swallowed up by one of the treacherous bogs or sink holes. The party are encouraged to stay away from the manor and at all costs to avoid the open marsh and moorland as it is also haunted by malevolent spirits. 

The barman of The Red Dog takes a shine to Cherry but unfortunately little information is extracted from him despite his surprising friendliness as he seems to be mute and communicates via a chalk-board. The owner of The Blooded Vine, "Hammy" is at first truculent and uncooperative but when he learns that the party have sold some of their wine to his brother, "Faelin", in Speyer he becomes far more animated. Paying a foolish amount for a firkin of wine, "Hammy" is delighted to have "proved" that anything the folks of Speyer can do, Bajorkham can do better. Sylke, despite her exotic and charming attempts, is similarly unable to glean much from the locals. She joins in a dice game of "Trap The Queen" with two elderly farmers but aside from local ghost stories, she learns little. 

Returning to Speyer, the party consider various approaches to the manor. There estate was abandoned 60 years ago on the death of Hwyell Orgillion and his family; Hwyell lost his wife to illness and his daughter was killed in a riding accident. The poor man never fully recovered and committed suicide; he hung himself in his study. Tobias Orgillion, the surviving son vanished into the marshes some months later. Thus ended the Orgillion family and the estate slumbered for over a generation. No income for the locals but no taxes either. Then, a year ago new owners appeared but despite repairs to the estate there was both no work for the locals and little contact between the estate's new occupants and the villages. About a month ago two riders sped through Speyer at night towards the small docks but since then, there has been no news at all and no contact.

Cherry asks the water elemental, Lyssa, to use the Creeping Stream river and explore as much of the manor's environs as possible. Delighted to swim free and unfettered in the clear waters, Lyssa rushes away. She warns the party that the manor is occupied but oddly "nothing is living there". She also ominously relays the fact that something evil is present, something that she has not felt since the day the Hadeshill Asylum burned.

The next day, the party purchase a flat-bottomed skiff and head up the Creeping Stream to the estate. Leaving Spotted Jim stabled in Speyer, the party aim to approach the manor from the north and intend to climb the cliff edge of the hill that the house stands on and avoid a more obvious and open approach by road …

Situation Report Nine (missing)
Chronicles of Cran Crannock

Lost my bloody notepad and pen didn't I?

Situation Report Eight (Supplement)
Chronicles of Cran Crannock

On The Brine On the Briney

As we set sail on The Brine it is also clear that the Skipper knows her business. The chop turns to rolling waves as we leave the relative calm of Sel-kai harbour. The steady strong wind whips the sea foam and sleet into our faces as we head out on a fine reach towards the island. Fresh air at last. By the gods it feels good.

We each spend the first couple of hours of the trip in thought, although some of us enjoy the invigorating sea air more than others.

Cherry emerges from below-decks and gathers the team around, “We’ve got this cover ready to travel, do we have a decent idea what we are looking for at this estate?  The way I see it is they’ll be watching strangers closely on the island and if we have Lyssa to communicate I can actually drop back from the team and use the wine merchant cover quite well for the main team. Yes I want you guys and girls to actually sell the brandy and wine I’ve brought for a profit. I can’t see why we can’t make money while doing this.”

"Ugnan, you take sales lead and have Sylke as your partner/backer for the venture with Sharna and Cran as your protection. When you identify target rooms or information you reach out to Lyssa, who’ll be with me and let me know what the lay out and things to avoid might be, distract with your sales pitch or even other goofiness and I’ll keep to the shadows and open pathways for you all, as far as we are seen by the Islander eyes and ears there are four in the merchant group. If I get caught that gives you all plausible deniability and between Lyssa and my skills I should be able to avoid most contact.”

With that Cheryl takes a deep sigh and her eyes get a stern look. “That’s  my plan so far, feel free to tear it apart, or add to it. I’m just used to doing what I do without being overly encumbered and our current contract seems to require us doing this with minimum footprint. Or maybe I’m just seeing that because minimum foot print is my thing”.

She turns to Sylke and says, “You gotta learn to keep me out of the picture when discussing things in front of our contractors and our targets baby-girl, I’m best used as the surprise not the main feature. I live in the shadows and that’s the way I like to be until I have no other choice.”

I scratch my chin, and reply, "Sounds a workable plan to me Cherry. Anyone able to produce some forged documents that provide trading rights on the island? I'm relieved to have Sharna alongside me, but we need a reason she's protecting a small band of liquor traders. Any ideas?"

His back to the group, Ugnan's vomit spattered head droops over the gunwale. He releases his tight grip and raises an arm to give a thumbs up when Cherry tells him to take the sales lead before grabbing at the side again to steady his shaky legs.

I glance at Elayne and weave my way over to Ugnan with my battered silver flask proffered, concern and humour vying for control of my salt-weathered face. "Hey Ugnan, you alright? The Skipper told me to take a nip of brandy if you feel wobbly. Can't read the woman though. She could be winding me up. Anyway, have a swig if you want. Oh, you may also want to lean over the down-wind side of the boat to avoid the wind whipping your breakfast back into your face."

Wiping his mouth and cheek with a crusty sleeve but still leaving a few strips of stomach lining matted to his beard, Ugnan looks hopefully at the flask. A gust of wind brings a whiff of the alcohol to him causing his face to pale which he whips downwards again. Retching, he waves the burly barbarian away.

Sharna vaults from the lower deck, gracefully rolls and finishes in a hand stand. She shifts her weight and pulls her left hand to her side. "I can go along with this plan", she says while balancing like this for a minute. She changes hands as the ship hits a wave. Sharna is thrown off balance but she recovers by rolling to her feet. "Hmm, I thought the dojo's balancing board was difficult", she mutters as she somersaults back down the hatch for the umpteenth time.

Cherry shakes her head at Sharna's athleticism before piping up again, "Well Adresin told me our Mr Deltar was looking for us. In fact Ads was watching out for us, as he's a friend he's covering for me. And for the coin I gave him he should keep his word for a few days. I gave him our cover as a new path I'm taking in life, which I think he bought and if he hands this over to Deltar there are two factors that Deltar will be pondering before he acts either way: First we have taken our pay and gone straight as traders; second if reports of said traders come back from the island he'll be expecting five, not four of us."

Chapter One: The Spice Merchants Of Sel-kai: Part Eight

The Pirates Of Plasidar

The offices that the party have to infiltrate are located in the southeastern corner of the ground floor and are guarded by two heavy set armed men. Deciding on stealth and caution, the party make their way back up to the upper floor and then down to the ground floor store room that lies conveniently near the offices, here they plan to wait until the evening when the asylum should be quieter. The companions are forced to withdraw suddenly when Aenor's men start moving more crates into the room. On investigation, these turn out to be weapon shipments, obviously illegal ones. A small stamp of a white swan and the newspaper that the swords have been carefully wrapped in clearly mark them out as having come from the infamous Pirates of Plasidar.

Laying their plans carefully and after waiting until the shadows draw in outside the building, Cherry and Sylke creep into the larger of the two offices via a set of stairs from the upper floor. The guard present stirs from a nap but is sent into a magical slumber by Sylke. Wedges are placed under the doors to prevent the party being disturbed and Ugnan rifles through the old log books and papers. Discovering that the door that they hoped would lead to the main office actually leads to the jakes, the party retreat upstairs and then, at great risk, burst from the storage room into the corridor. 

Within seconds, the hapless men have been battered to the floor by a ferocious assault by Sharna and Cran. The latter stands menacingly on guard as Cherry and Ugnan again search through the papers that have been left on what must be Aenor's desk. The party know that they risk being described by the two injured guards but are reluctant to just kill them out of hand. More men arrive to move the weapons into hand carts and in a strange twist it sounds as if they are being led by Olvar One-thumb

A potentially lethal combat in a narrow corridor is not what the party want – "the mission is everything" – and they make their escape by using the strange misshapen creature they discovered in the basement as a distraction. While Olvar and his men battle the enraged creature, the party withdraw to the dark streets of Sel-kai.

With time to look through the papers and discuss these with House Elgata's Head of Intelligence ("Eloen Para"), the companions learn something of the asylum's history and a link to an old merchant's guild, "The Honourable Guild Of Spicers". Aenor's papers reveal that House Betaran owns an old manor house on Teaque Island ( a day's sail to the north) where more "goods" are waiting to be collected by ship. These could be weapons, they could be something else. Eloen is pleased that the party have established a link between Aenor and the pirates – forewarned is forearmed. He doubts that House Betaran is aware of this – the pirates have been as much of a threat to their shipping interests as every other House. The party's next step is to travel to Teaque Island on "The Brine" captained by "Sarissa Elayne".

The party decide to move to The Pig 'n Poke to avoid any unfortunate meetings with Olvar who will doubtless start looking for them soon given the word they put out a few days ago. Complications are best avoided and a "linear plan" is simpler to follow – this rather surprisingly from Cran. 

Drawn to the abandoned mirror in The Old Sword, and curious about Old Mother Cloot and her families connections to the asylum and The Spicer's, Sylke asks the party for their "help" (via a rope) in attuning with the device. However, the impetuous mage dramatically attempts to enter the portal despite Lyssa's urgent warnings. The portal hurls Sylke back into the old corridor stunned and badly injured. If the portal leads to Mother Cloot (who Davos Cloot "claims" died 3 years ago), she clearly does not want to be followed. Lyssa warns the party that "She Who Waits" (Queen Mab) lurks and watches in every mirror and it is a foolish mortal who gazes for too long into "the inbetween" or worse, attempts to enter without permission.

Foiled in her attempt to use the powerful device, Sylke prepares for a journey to the cold and mist-covered Teaque Island and a the desolate Orgillion Manor - it will almost certainly be horrible.

Situation Report Eight
Chronicles of Cran Crannock

We concoct a plan to cause a distraction in the body of the Asylum so that we can infiltrate the office. Sylke plans to rest up to relearn her Sleep spell, and we join her in the attic to take a breather. Just like my experience of mercenary work – most of it seemed to be lying around in the mud, scratching our fruits, waiting for something to happen. During our rest we hear three ruffians downstairs more some large crates into the storage room. Sharna investigates and discovers six crates about five feet long, each marked with a white stylized swan motif (the infamous Pirates of Plasidar use this as an emblem we believe). I lever off a lid and discover a horde of high quality weapons. I nab a well-oiled broadsword before we hide one of the crates in the room that contained Elisora's ghost in the attic.

After a decent rest, as we pass the eleventh bell, we execute the plan: Sylke casts sleep on a solitary guard in our target room; Cherry moves quietly into the room and wedges a couple of doors, overhearing two more guards in the corridor outside. Sharna knocks out the sleeping guard and Cherry unlocks the northern door that must lead to Aenor's office and discovers a… privy!

Foiled. Time for Plan B. We decide to surprise the two guards from cover of the storage room. The sleep spell fails, however, Sharna leaps in and stuns one, shattering his elbow with an awesome throw. I manage to smack the other guard with a glancing blow in the ribs, and hear a 'crack'. Wheezing in pain, he drops to his knees. And, like that, the fight is over. Ugnan bandages the guards as best he can and we tie and gag them.

Finally we break into the office where Cherry finds papers describing Teaque Island and the Orgillion Estate. We also discover that House Betaran purchased the Estate only one year ago. Suddenly we hear a group of ruffians coming back into the house and extract ourselves via the attic, Cherry letting the shambling lunk loose to cover our tracks.

We meet a representative of House Alaxatan called Eloen Para who questions us on the mission. We are asked to further investigate the Orgillion Estate on Teaque Island. We agree to investigate in two days and take precautions by relocating our base to The Pig & Poke.

Ugnan researches the recent revelations and discovers some interesting facts. Hadeshill Asylum was established in 5734 primarily to care for 'highly stressed' seers and sages. Main sources of funding were the Kalingen University and donations from House Orgillion (Desidara  Orgillion was the family benefactor) and some money from The Spicer's Guild. In 5738 an event took place at the Asylum and the place was locked and boarded up. Ugnan also discovers a link with the Cloot family who demanded that The Spicer's Guild investment was actually used on the Asylum. The Spicer's Guild Hall was established in 1864 and we believe that both the Cloots and Orgillions were founding families (four thousand years ago)!

Back to The Old Sword we get stonewalled by Davos when we ask again about Old Ma' Cloot. Upstairs in the Inn Sylke explores the mirror again and plans to attune with it. I tie a rope around her waist as a precaution, which was lucky, because she casts a Leaping spell to jump at the glass and, as she does, Lyssa warns us about Queen Mab through the mirror. Sylke gets blasted back from the mirror in a blue flash and collapses to the floor, covered in a rime of ice! Before we leave, Sylke remembers that Queen Mab can access people via mirrors.

After restocking, and posing as a liquor trading company, complete with several barrels of brandy and wine, we depart for the Island on a ship called The Brine skippered by Captain Sarissa Elayne.

Interesting woman this Sarissa. Smokes a pipe. Barely speaks a word. I like her.


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